Blu-ray Myths Explained
Whenever a new technology comes out there is a certain learning curve with the public before it is readily accepted. As someone of the baby boomer generation I have seen this repeated over and over from the advent of television through the first major format wars with video tape recorders. In those days it was largely word of mouth that would drive the acceptance or rejection of a new technological wonder. In todayís internet world not only do the real specifications disseminate at record speed so do the myths about a new device or format. This isnít new; there were concerns when cassette tapes threatened the vinyl record or the brief love affair with the eight track tape player. Now, the information, right and wrong, infiltrates into the perception of the public with lightening speed. The purpose of this article is to explore some of the misconceptions with the latest home technology; the Blu-ray DVD player. A lot of people on still undecided about this new way to watch movies and other forms of entertainment; many are this way just because they are unaware of the facts about the format. This is understandable and a most of the concerns are reasonable. The home theater has become the social focal point on many American homes and you just want to be sure before you make a major change in it. So, sit down, grab a cup of coffee and relax. Hopefully your questions about Blu-ray will soon be answered. Warner Brothers conducted as survey to determine what the major concerns were for the public about Blu-ray. The results of this were the basis for the questions that hopefully will be answered for you here.
Myth: Itís too new to trust
Many people feel that Blu-ray is just too new to be a matured and reliable format. They are used to the superior quality of DVDs and have moved over from VHS a long time ago. It is true that Blu-ray is relatively new but letís face it; technology moves faster now than any other time in history. You most likely have out grown your computer from just a few years ago and have upgraded. You may not be aware of it but your DVD player is just another type of computer. The Blu-ray is just an upgrade. The physical dimensions of the disc are the same as your CDs and DVDs. The initial format was set and ready to go in 2005. By 2006 the major studios were already releases films on this new format. There was a much publicized format war with the competing high definition format, HD DVD. In February 2008 the last major distributor abandoned HD DVD and Blu-ray emerged the winner. The key to the format is a new blue-violet laser using a wavelength of 405 nm. Since this is much shorter than the laser used on DVD much more information can be stored on a Blu-ray. This permits up to six times the storage, 50 gigabytes, permitted the recording of high definition video and audio. The software used with the Blu-ray is based on the computer program language Java. This allows the manufactures to employ far more sophisticated menus and extra features. The Blu-ray format was created as a response to the growing number of homes that have high definition television sets. DVDs have been around since 1997 but and they will remain for the foreseeable future but Blu-ray offers a way to get the most out of the new TV sets out there. Most Blu-ray players are able too accept firmware upgrades online just like your computer. This makes sure that what you buy today will be current for years to come. The lines between your cable television, your computer and your Blu-ray player are almost nonexistent at this point.
Myth: Blu-ray players are really expensive
Okay, this one is a little bit true. Now you can get a regular DVD player for under $100. Blu-ray players used to cost a couple of thousand dollars but now that the dreaded format war is over the price has been dropping steadily. If is possible to spend about $1,200 for one but the more typical cost is from $250 to $400. the higher price models do have a lot more in the way of bells and whistles but like DVD players the standards are well established and required for any certified Blu-ray player. You can also go for a dual purpose machine and get a Sony Play Station 3. It will not only play video games but all Blu-ray discs as well. Remember this is just another type of computer so it is easy to build in multiple functions. The higher end of players usually has optional features such as color enhancement for the ability to play with the audio. While these are nice features they are not necessary for the total enjoyment of your home library. In short there are Blu-ray players targeted to fit most budgets.
Myth: Blu-ray players canít play standard DVDs. All my ordinary DVDs would be worthless
This is something that is still prevalent in the minds of a lot of people. Like any new computer downward compatibility is vital to having a format accepted in the market place. The studios and Blu-ray manufacturers are in business to make money. Creating something that would preclude the use of the older standard is something that would not make sense. First of all they know that they will still be releasing new content on DVD so they donít want to shut themselves out of that market. This myth most likely got started back a few years ago. Some of the very first Blu-ray players would play DVDs but not most CDs. This has been rectified now. All modern Blu-ray players will play DVDs, DVD -+ RW, DVD ĖR and CDs. Most will show you JPG pictures, play MPG video and of course, all the DVDs presently in your collection. I will admit that when I moved up to Blu-ray I had some trepidation even though I knew the facts. Pleasantly all my collection has worked just fine. I did have one moment of terror when some Blu-ray discs I had for review wouldnít work. I couldnít figure it out until I realized it was because there were two discs in the case and I was trying to play the new digital copy of the film instead of the Blu-ray disc. That wasnít the fault of the player but my own rush in not reading the cover.
Myth: Blu-ray wonít improve how movies look on my HDTV that much
I can understand this fear but it is one of the most unfounded myths of the bunch. The Blu-ray format was created in response to the new high definition television sets. It was made to provide the best possible picture and sound available. Old television sets had a screen solution of 480i. The Ďií stands for interlaced and all it means is the picture is built up by electronically painting odd number lines and going back to fill in the even lines. On older sets this was a slow process and there was some flicker as the picture moved from frame to frame. Most true high definition television sets are set for 1080p. The Ďpí is for progressive. Here the picture is not interlaced but cached to present as a single frame. This not only does away with flicker it allows for more lines of resolution which translates to a clearer picture. There are over twice the lines of resolution but since there are also many more pixels per line the high definition TV has up to six times the resolution of a regular television set. When you watch HD TV from your cable or satellite dish the signal is heavily compressed because of shared bandwidth concerns With a Blu-ray disc this is not the a big problem. With 50 gigabytes of storage capacity the compression factor is lower giving an even clearer picture. Of course a lot depends on the original source material used to master the Blu-ray disc. Older material will still look far better than before but with the newer films and television series that where created with high definition in mind will simply blow you away. There is really no way to fully describe the experience; it has to be seen to believe.
Myth: Blu-ray wonít improve how the movies sound
You really didnít think the Blu-ray people would give you great video and forget the audio did you? The Blu-ray standard supports the new 7.1 audio formats. In 5.1 systems you have a pair of front speakers, a pair in the rear, one center speaker and the subwoofer. The 7.1 format adds a pair of speakers on the side. Itís nice but not really something to run out and get. It is nice to know you have the potential for it though. Along with all the DVD audio formats like Dolby 5.1 and DTS the Blu-ray standards has several new ways to listen to your favorite films. There is DTS HD which is the big brother of the DTS you are used to. There is also True-HD which is analogous to the Dolby system. Both offer 7.1 audio but can be down mixed to a six channel system. When I moved up to Blu-ray I found it best to bypass the included Toslink optical cable into my decoder and use the built in decoder in the Blu-ray. Without changing my speaker setup or my current six channel received I was amazed at how much better the sound was. It was clearer and far more robust. One of the main reasons for this again comes back to compression. In DVD oriented audio systems the sound is heavily compressed. The new sound formats that are used in Blu-ray are lossless audio. That means is there is little to no compression allowing the best possible audio presentation. There is a 10.2 audio on the horizon but donít worry at all about it. If your home is anything like mine the thought of placing a dozen speakers around the room is something you men out there will have to work out with your wives. Mine told me not to even dream about it.
Myth: A Blu-ray player wonít improve my current DVDs so why bother?
Okay, we have established that all Blu-ray players will play your current collection of DVDs but will it make them look better; short answer is yes. Blu-ray players come with something called 1080 upconversion. This is the video equivalent of the way a good home theater receiver will simulate surround sound from non surround sound material. This system uses the computer inside your Blu-ray player to run a program and use specialized circuits to reprocess your regular 480i DVDs to emulate 1080p. The results will vary again depending on the source material used to master the DVD. Donít expect your DVDs of ĎGilligansís Islandí to look as good as the Blu-ray disc of the latest blockbuster action movie. In most DVDs there is enough information on the disc for the process to work very well. Your DVD collection will look better than ever; not as good as the true 1080p on a Blu-ray but you will see the different and get more out of your HDTV. Some DVD recorders also have the upconversion feature allowing you to record a regular DVD with the conversion to 1080p already on the disc. My DVD recorder has this feature and it works much better than I expected.
Myth: Iím going to have to get a lot of new expensive cables for Blu-ray
This is a tricky myth to explode since there is a slight grain of truth to it. Almost every Blu-ray player will support the older standards for audio and video connections. You typically have the old school composite jacks; you know, white for left audio, red for right audio and yellow for video. There is also a component set of jacks with the three different color plugs just for the video. On the audio end typically there will be six outputs to connect directly with your home theater receiver; an optical Toslink and digital coax audio connector. This will allow you to connect to almost anything you own at this moment. If you want to get in on Blu-ray now and upgrade to a HDTV a little later this will allow you to watch a Blu-ray in 480i format. You wonít get the full advantage of the high definition of course but you can do it. If you have a high definition TV made in the last few years it will have a HDMI connector. This stands for High definition media interface. Some of the newest will carry both the audio and video but mostly you will use it for the video. It connects directly to your HDTV and will give you the best possible video. Most HD cable boxes and DVRs also use HDMI for the video. These cables used to cost a lot but you can get an excellent cable for about $30 now. You may hear people talk about version 1.3 versus 1.1 but donít let this be a major concern. Version 1.1 has all the features you need for true high definition video. The higher revisions contain some extra features that will not be necessary for most home theater set ups.
Myth: There arenít a lot of films on Blu-ray yet
Now this is one that is easy for me to speak to. On this site I have a full DVD data of almost all titles from 1997 to the near future. As of November 2008 there is almost one thousand Blu-ray titles already out there with almost 300 planed for release in the near future. Every day as we work on the database available on this site we see more and more Blu-ray announcements. Now that the format war is over the number of studios releasing material on Blu-ray is growing every day. Most major releases are being made in Blu-ray frequently with extras not found on the DVD counterpart. Even some of the smaller studios are getting on the Blu-ray bandwagon. You will certainly still buy DVDs but when both formats are offered you will find yourself going Blu-ray easier than ever. Blu-ray discs still typically cost about $5 to $10 more than the same film on DVD but most of the studios are closing that gap rapidly. Even with the little extra cost just remember all the added value and quality you are getting.
I hope this has answered your questions about the Blu-ray format. Please feel free to write if you have a specific question about the format. Just as a disclosure I do not work for any studio or Blu-ray manufacturer. I am simply like most of you, a fan of home theater. I am old enough to remember the switch from black and white television too color, the advent and decline of the VHS and the start of the move from DVD to Blu-ray. This is an exciting new format and it will revolutionize the enjoyment of your home system. If you already moved up to HDTV give it a chance to really show you what it can do and seriously consider moving up to Blu-ray. I had my doubts at first but now I would never consider going back.
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